Music / Jazz

Bristol’s week in jazz, February 17 – 23

By tony benjamin, Monday Feb 17, 2020

It’s a busy time for tasty Hammond-wrangler Jonny Henderson, whose flying fingers play a big role in three gigs this week, while saxophonist Dee Byrne’s great new project  should pack out the Be-bop and intriguing electro-acoustic drummer SWIMS joins Waldo’s Gift for one week only. And don’t forget to check out the line-ups for the upcoming Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival (March 26-29) and Cheltenham Jazz Festival (May 5-10) as headline gigs are booking fast for both.

Despite frequent international tours with blues heavyweights like Kirk Fletcher and Matt Schofield local Hammond specialist Jonny Henderson has always been up for grooving jazz collaborations nearer home. His classic style, referencing Jimmy Smith and others, adds energy and freshness to a well-loved sound, and this week sees him alongside a couple of popular saxophone stylists. First up is James Morton & friends (Fringe, Wednesday 19) with sizzling guitarist Alex Hutchings and uberdrummer Ian Matthews also joining the mercurial Mr Morton’s alto sax. Then it’s Split Tone (Future Inn, Thursday 20), a new quartet headed up by Craig Crofton’s forceful tenor sax, with Matt Hopkins on guitar and Andy Tween drumming. Finally, on Sunday (23), Jonny hauls his B3 into the Star & Garter for Waldman/Henderson/Brown, a trio that pits him against guitarist Dan Waldman with the equally ubiquitous drummer Matt Brown driving things along. Each is a splendid combination offering nice ‘compare and contrast’ possibilities.

The familiar sax pairing of Dee Byrne and Cath Roberts has figured in a few excellent bands and their latest project is Anglo-Swiss sextet MoonMot (Be-bop Club, Friday 21). It’s a full sounding band with great rocky energy and very imaginative writing that deploys elements of electronics alongside rich brass harmonies, with an open improvisational spirit.

Another Swiss talent visits town this week: Arthur Hnatek has drummed with Tigran Hamasyan, Donny McCaslin and other big names but is perhaps better known for his electronic development of ‘sensory percussion’ in the guise of solo project  SWIMS (Gallimaufry, Wednesday 19). This uses a drum kit to trigger programmed electronica, creating a distinctive fusion of improvisation and electronic dance music.

Kuljit Bhamra & Davide Giovannini bring a different kind of percussive exploration to St George’s (Saturday 22). Tabla player Kuljit last came to St George’s in a simple duo with Andy Sheppard but this is a much more complex affair with two percussionists and a string quartet. Kuljit’s use of multiple tuned tabla with Davide’s similarly tuned drum kit creates a fascinating hybrid of rhythm and melody, while the Villiers Quartet adds an Anglo-Indian string flavour to the delicately constructed music.

There’s not much delicate about Get The Blessing (Jam Jar, Wednesday 19), of course and you can predict a classic evening of roof rafter rattling post-jazz when they make a welcome reappearance. Last album Bristopia showed them still forging ahead with a sound that they proudly boast was described as ‘atrocious, cacophonous, monotonous, pretentious’ by one jazz publication.

An unusual blast from the past pulls into Fiddlers on Saturday 22. Mother Earth arose during the 90s Acid Jazz revival with a loosely funky kind of soul jazz. Led by guitarist Matt Deighton they flourished until disbanding in 1996 and Matt has recently reformed the band with members of Galliano and Brand New Heavies. More contemporary soul jazz should be conjured by vocalist China Bowls, usually seen fronting Snazzback but this week guesting with AVtrio at Gallimaufry (Thursday 22).

These days ‘Leeds-based’ is almost a guarantee of quality in contemporary jazz and Shaku (The Bell, Monday 17) are another reason to have confidence in the brand. Whether playing spaced out instrumentals, straightforward blues or hard-rocking jazz funk songs the 6-piece band deploy their considerable musical talents with economy and well-judged freedom.

Friday night is Latin night, sadly, as four contrasting Latin-derived projects vie for your attention and force you to choose. German acoustic guitar duo Cafe del Mundo (Hen & Chicken) combine flamenco technique with en ear for rock, jazz and hip-hop in the manner of Slowhawk Duo or Rodrigo y Gabriela. Electric Latin Funk quartet Starlings (LeftBank) pick up the energy of bands like Lettuce, St Vincent and Soulive for a set of brass-powered grooving. More straightforward (but no less energetic) Salsa, Cumbia and Son can be expected from Indira Roman & Aji Pa Ti (Canteen), with Cuban vocalist Indira a charismatic core to the music. Finally, fellow Havana-exile trumpeter Michel Padron comes to El Rincon in a duo with Colombian guitarist Juan Carlos Arenas.

There’s a trio of good chances to walk on the wilder side, of course, beginning with the double bill of Sitting Ducks/Exchange Quartet at Greenbank (Tuesday 18). The latter are four familiar faces from the Bristol improvising music scene (and those Sunday lunch sessions at the Exchange) while Sitting Ducks is a new trio of Phil Gibbs on guitar with Paul Anstey’s bass and Harry Irvine’s drums. Thursday’s Cardboard Club night at Cafe Kino  features Invisible Man aka multi-instrumentalist Paul Archibald and a solo set from guitar explorer Matthew Grigg. Then the Dark Alchemy present Dark Ambient In The Crypt II (St John on the Wall, Saturday 22). It’s a triple bill of post-industrial/spiritual funeral industrial/dark ambient ritual noise acts thoroughly appropriate to a performance in the crypt.

And, finally, there’s the regular Swing Sunday at Tobacco Factory featuring Jack Calloway & The Big Apple Dance Band, while over at the Stag & Hounds the weekly jazz session is headed off by pianist Tim Funnel’s cool contemporary playing.

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